Gluru launches to become Google Now for business


As a certain Isaac Asimov once penned, any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

I felt that way the first time I saw Google Now. When it originally launched, I just happened to have a flight booked the next day. With a simple swipe, the details of that trip were shown front and center, along with a reassurance that my plane was still on time. A few days later, Google Now started showing me the latest results of matches including my favorite sports teams. Magic.

Of course these days, thanks in part to Google, we expect this level of personalization. In fact, according to my most recent study, over 77 percent of “digital natives” expect a personalized website experience.

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But solutions like Google Now, while great for individuals and consumer-level data, don’t work so well for those trying to do business — the entrepreneurs, salespeople, and executives that need their own documents and communications at their fingertips.

Attempting to solve this problem, Gluru has today unveiled a first look at its new app on Android and web browser, designed to be the “Google Now for your business content,” surfacing exactly what you need, when you need it, in context with your business activities.

Gluru’s founder and CEO is Tim Porter. Porter was marketing director at Shazam before spending six years at Apple as part of the core team in the early days of iTunes Europe. His most recent tenure was at Google, where he was instrumental in launching Google Play in Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA). In January 2015, Gluru closed a $1.5M seed round with investors Playfair Capital and GECAD Group leading the round and participation from angels including former Shazam CTO Chee Wong. Porter showed me around the Gluru app on both the browser and in Android.

On launching the app, a clean interface shows you the day ahead. It draws this information from your calendar and other connected sources, such as planned meetings, calendar invites, and more. It understands and presents the contacts it thinks you’ll need to interact with that day, and shows you what meetings you have coming up.


Above: The daily digest after selecting a particular contact

Selecting one of those events makes the magic happen. Not only was I presented with a list of the people in that meeting, but Gluru also showed me all the Google Drive content it thinks is pertinent to that event. Gluru currently presents files and information from Google Mail, Google Calendar, Google Drive, Dropbox, Box, OneDrive, and Evernote. Selecting a person from the daily digest shows me the files it thinks are important for that contact.

Importantly, the more you use it, the better the system learns, understands, and anticipates your needs. At its heart is a machine-learning engine that uses predictive analytics to better understand the user and what they need, when they need it.

In addition to the daily digest, Gluru includes a button with a lightning bolt icon. It is, somewhat tongue-in-cheek I suspect, called the “Now Button.”


Above: The “Now Button” in action on Android

Pressing this tells you exactly what you’re supposed to be doing right now, and presents all the information that will help you in that current task. Gluru also offers a search capability that allows you to find anything it understands — people, documents, spreadsheets, meetings, companies, and more.

I talked with Porter about the future of Gluru. In particular, we discussed the future of the solution, and plans to link it to CRM solutions, project management systems, and other third-party data sources.

“Although Gluru can benefit individual consumer users, our focus is on busy professionals either as individuals or as a team,” Porter said. “We see Gluru as the future brain of data-heavy CRM or project managements systems, and more. Imagine the time saved if all of your information was automatically organized into Salesforce, and it recommended the files you need, before you know you need it, so you don’t have to retrieve it.”

As a long-time user and now analyst of solutions like Salesforce, the appeal of this is not lost on me.

“What if when a file is shared in Slack, all the files you need to work with automatically appear,” Porter said. “In a sense, this is a smart layer between your files, wherever they are. Solving the issue of knowledge management, and associated wasted time in a smart, elegant contextual way, is what truly excites us.”

But what happens if Google expand its Now solution to include document look-up functionality that surfaces the right content based on calendar entries?

Gluru-daily-digest-Android“Google Now is outwardly focused on bringing you useful information and context from the Internet and is a generalist assistant for consumer users,” Porter said. “Gluru is purely focused on saving time for professionals and is dedicated to organizing information from your workflow and connecting that information to you or your teams’ important moments.”

But Porter believes the separation between Google Now and Gluru isn’t just about target markets.

“The AI and deep learning technology behind the recommendations that Gluru makes for calendar entries is something that is beyond any features available right now,” Porter said. “Gluru is not only about calendar recommendations — it predicts the most important people you will work with and the most important files you will need to work with them. Gluru then learns from you the more you use it. Gluru also automatically organizes your files based on your workflow, so you no longer have to spend time filing.”

The company is planning additional integrations with internal network systems for instant access to company files, workflow and CRM software, as well as with additional applications including iCloud, Microsoft Exchange, SharePoint, and more. Gluru is also planning an API for developers and enterprises to build its capabilities into new or existing applications, like Slack, Hipchat or Salesforce.

Following a closed beta that included over 300 professional users, Gluru is available to the public today from Google Play and its website. An iOS version is planned. Gluru is free for individuals, and there are no limits on usage. The company does charge for teams, but pricing is on a per request basis and is dependent on the size of the team.

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How Google’s logo has evolved through the years

New Google Logo: 2015

Google launched a new logo yesterday, its first refresh in two years.

While the Google logo has evolved over its 17-year history, it has largely stayed faithful to the original concept. However, yesterday saw Google go sans-serif, but it kept the same “flat” look it took on back in 2013.

For all you youngsters out there, or for those who’d like a trip down memory lane, here’s how the Internet giant’s iconic marking has evolved.

In the beginning…

Google Logo (Stanford)

Above: Google Logo (Stanford)

Initially nicknamed “BackRub,” Google began as a research project out of Stanford University, by PhD students Larry Page and Sergey Brin, in 1996.

This was the first proper Google logo, used internally at Stanford.

Google is born…


Above: Original Google logo

Google was officially founded in September of 1998, and this was their first official logo as a company, which they ran with for a couple of months.

The constituent letters sported different colors to what you recognize today.

Familiar colors…

The logo as you know it

Above: All the clolors

In late 1998, Google switched its logo to the familiar color combination that it has stuck with ever since — however, it added a Yahoo-style exclamation mark to the mix. Not cool.

This logo didn’t last for long, however.

Long-standing logo…

Long-standing logo

Above: Long-standing logo

From around mid-1999 all the way through to 2010, this is how Google looked to most people.

The letters aren’t quite as fat as the previous one, and the color accents are different. But for most people, this was a prettier logo, which is perhaps why it lasted as long as it did.

A brighter logo…

A brighter logo

Above: A brighter logo

After more than a decade, Google introduced a new design for its logo in 2010, which lasted all of three years.

The colors were brighter, and there was less shadowing around the letters. It wasn’t a huge overhaul, but it did bring cleaner signage to the brand.

Google goes flat…

Google goes flat

Above: Google goes flat

This is the logo you’ve likely seen every single day of your life for the past two years.

Google removed the shadows, creating a “flat” look — entirely in keeping with what was seemingly the design craze at the time. Indeed, Apple adopted a new “flat” look for iOS that same year.

Google, without “serifs”

Google today

Above: Google today

This is the Google logo you’ll see from now on, though in its announcement yesterday the company admitted that “it probably won’t be the last” time it changes its look.

This design, along with a bunch of new icons and animations, is what you’ll see for the forseeable future. It’s flat, as before, but the letters are more rounded and for the first time there isn’t a single serif in sight.

While opinions typically lean towards the negative end of the spectrum whenever a big brand unveils a new logo, it all comes down to familiarity — in a few months time, most people will likely have forgotten the logo was ever anything else.


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The mobile web is enjoying a comeback — but why?

woman texting

This sponsored post is produced by Smaato.

There’s a great deal of intuitive and counter-intuitive intelligence lurking in the dark corners of data warehouses — if only you’re brave enough to look. We recently took a deep dive into the billions upon billions of mobile ad impressions that ran across our Exchange during the first six months of 2015, and unearthed a series of findings that shine a light on just how ubiquitous and mainstream mobile advertising has become this year — as well as on trends that we truly didn’t expect to find.

Case in point: the mobile web. It’s a little-used distraction, right? All the real action is happening in apps, not browsers — right? While that may have once been true, the mobile web is mounting a pretty impressive comeback. Smaato’s Global Trends in Mobile Programmatic report found that while app spending rose sharply and still continues to lead overall in terms of spending and impressions, mobile web spending doubled over the past year to hit 38 percent of the market, while the percentage of app spending dropped to 62 percent from 72 percent last year. The story on the supply/inventory side is similar: 41 percent of all supply is now on the mobile web, with 59% in apps.

The social factor

We see several bigger trends that are working together to bring mobile web usage — and ad spending — in line with that of apps around the world. First, Facebook’s and Twitter’s apps themselves are helping to reduce usage of other apps overall, by driving untold billions of clicks to the mobile web. The Facebook and Twitter apps feature a variety of news and entertainment sources whose posts feature hyperlinks, and those hyperlinks allow user to choose to pop open articles in browsers like Safari, Chrome, and Opera. According to a recent report from IAB, 52 percent of smartphone owners say they tap links in mobile apps that take them to web articles they want to read. These drive users to the mobile web in hoards, and drive them out of the app ecosystem.

Now that so many news, commerce, and entertainment sites are either mobile-first or mobile-optimized, heightened attention is clearly being placed by publishers on effectively monetizing the places where consumers head first, which is often the mobile web — and via those social apps that easily allow access to it.

The Asia factor

These rising mobile web trends can also more generally be pinpointed to the popularity of browsing among first-time smartphone users in places like China and India. These two countries in particular The exploded in supply on the Smaato Exchange during the first half of 2015, clocking increases of 315 percent and 279 percent respectively. Cheap Android smartphones in these countries, as well as in other parts of Asia and in sub-Saharan Africa, has driven large increases in Android app inventory to the point where Android apps have 35 percent of all inventory on the Smaato exchange, with iOS apps only driving 20 percent. (Mobile web leads the pack at 41 percent, leaving Windows, BlackBerry, and other app ecosystems to divide the remaining 4 percent).

These statistics point to a mainstreaming of mobile — and of the mobile web— that won’t be put back in the bottle. eMarketer estimates that while in-app spending is growing more rapidly, mobile web ad spending is also poised to grow dramatically, rising 36.8 percent in 2016 to $10.84 billion.

The programmatic factor

Programmatic, cookie-based targeting and a new set of ad formats are driving this mobile web spending. For instance, Smaato’s report found a huge surge in the 300×250 “medium rectangle” ad unit this past year. This mobile web-friendly size rose a significant 254 percent during the first six months of 2015, and spend on the even larger 320×480 interstitial ad unit saw an even more dramatic increase of 325 percent. These ads are larger in size and are much more engaging than smaller formats, and are a great fit for mobile web users’ fragmented and shortened attention spans.

Final proof of the mainstreaming of mobile web lies in the giant growth we’ve seen in mobile advertising spend in the “Family and Parenting” category, which exploded by 313 percent year-over-year. Think diapers and haircuts, rather than the traditional “app install” ads that have tended to rule the roost on the mobile web. Money is pouring into mobile from sources that once restricted their spending to desktop, TV, and print — because, again, that’s where a larger portion of the customer’s “share of eyeball” has headed.

Not to get too gory, but the fact that this share of eyeball is further being sliced into increasingly equal app vs. mobile web shares is a surprise in and of itself. It will certainly be interesting to observe how these trends stand or fall with the rise (or collapse) of popular social media ecosystems, the ubiquity of smartphones in developing markets, and the continued shifts in ad spending toward mobile. Delve deep enough into data, and you’re bound to discover that the accepted wisdom isn’t quite what it used to be.

red cell phoneDig Deeper: Download Smaato’s Global Trends in Mobile Programmatic, 1H 2015 report here.

Jay Hinman is the VP of Marketing at Smaato.

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NewsCred Raises $42M As It Sets Its Sights Beyond Content Marketing

newscred founders NewsCred is announcing that it has raised $42 million in additional equity funding. Founded in 2008, NewsCred started out as a system for readers to rate the credibility of every online publication and story. It shifted focus a couple of times before settling on helping brands find content for their content marketing efforts, first by licensing articles from big-name publications, then… Read More

Alibaba trials video-streaming service in push to be the Netflix of China

Alibaba / Alibaba's China head office in Hangzhou

Alibaba has been nothing if not completely transparent about its video-streaming ambitions to date: the Chinese e-commerce giant isn’t joking when it says it wants to be the Netflix of China.

Today, it took a step closer to realising that vision when it rolled out a beta of its Tmall Box Office (TBO) subscription service — only available to a handful of users for now — for a monthly price of about $6.

While the company didn’t make an official announcement on the launch, it did offer VentureBeat the following statement via email:

The Tmall Box Office is in a beta launch phase and it has been rolled out on certain models of the Tmall Box. Alibaba Group is committed to providing high-quality and engaging content to users on a variety of devices to meet their entertainment needs.

However, when pressed for more details, an Alibaba spokesperson declined to comment.

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In mid-June, Alibaba’s president of its digital entertainment business, Patrick Liu, said at the Shanghai International Film Festival that the company aims “to become like HBO and Netflix in the U.S.,” according to The Wall Street Journal.

“Our mission… is to redefine home entertainment,” he was quoted by Reuters as saying at the same event.

Much in the same way that Netflix partnered with manufacturers like Funai, Panasonic, Sanyo, Sharp, and Toshiba, Alibaba is partnering with Chinese TV manufacturers TCL, Hisense, and Haier in order to reach more consumers.

Also like Netflix, TBO is expected to offer a mixture of original and licensed content from China and abroad. Notably, local Internet rivals Baidu and Tencent are both already in the online video-streaming space in China.

But Alibaba is not without its own edge — last year it bought a 16.5 percent stake in Youku Tudou, one of China’s most popular video streaming platforms.

In March, Alibaba picked up an 8.8 percent stake in TV and film producer Beijing Enlight Media for close to $390 million, and along with its growing Aliyun cloud business is trying to chip out new revenue streams as it fights off beatings from Wall Street. (Alibaba’s shares recently dipped below their IPO price.)

On Monday, the company’s film unit Alibaba Pictures — the result of a $800 million majority stake purchase in film studio ChinaVision Media Group last year — reportedly pumped several million dollars into a small Beijing-based startup that wants to be China’s answer to Pixar.

Let’s see how the beta rollout of TBO goes, and we’ll be sure to update you if and when we get word from the company on a more complete launch.

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Sonic the Hedgehog zooms into Angry Birds Epic

Sonic in Angry Birds Epic

Sonic the Hedgehog has been a gaming icon for decades, and now he’s lending his powers to Rovio’s Angry Birds’ brand.

The Finnish tech giant has revealed the latest instalment in its Sega partnership, one that will see Sonic appear in Angry Birds Epic, an Angry Birds spin-off RPG (role-playing game).

For a limited time, gamers will be able to “unlock” and control Sonic in a special event on Piggy Island. Sonic is on your side, and with him your mission it to defeat Doctor Eggman, Sonic’s sworn enemy.

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This comes just months after the spiny mammal invited a handful of characters from Angry Birds over to play in Sonic Dash, a Temple Run-type endless runner game on mobile.

“It’s been a fun partnership with Rovio,” said Naoki Kameda, Sega’s VP of business development. “It was great to host Red, Chuck and Bomb in Sonic Dash this summer, and we hope fans enjoy playing with Sonic in Angry Birds Epic.”

You could be forgiven for thinking that Sonic has fallen on hard times, but Sonic Dash recently passed the 100 million downloads mark, claiming 14 million monthly players. It seems that he’s found a new lease of life on mobile.

Rovio recently launched Angry Birds 2, six years after the original, but the company has been branching out into too many things — as such, it recently announced it was cutting up to 260 jobs as it looks to refocus its efforts. And Sonic, it seems, is only too happy to help out.

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NewsCred nabs $42M to expand beyond content marketing

From the NewsCred site

Content marketing platform NewsCred is today announcing a new round of $42 million to help it evolve into a broader marketing platform.

Brands want to tell their unique story, cofounder and CEO Shafqat Islam told me, but their messaging underperforms when it relies on ads, because users often block or tune them out.

Based around a brand’s need to control how its story is told, the seven-year-old company is now expanding beyond its content marketplace and distribution to a more generalized marketing platform.

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As one example, Islam noted that NewsCred’s former Editorial Calendar is now replaced by a Marketing Calendar that helps keep track of what’s happening on websites, email, social, and other channels.

There are also operational tools for managing content-related workflows, task management, and collaboration, which in recent years have expanded to include social media, integration with other systems, publishing to owned properties like a brand’s websites, and analytics that describe who is viewing and sharing the content.

Islam also noted that a tool is in the works to help marketers determine the best places to invest their budget.

Content marketing via NewsCred

Above: Content marketing via NewsCred

Image Credit: NewsCred

Content itself is continually expanding, venturing beyond white papers, case histories, webinars, licensed imagery, and short- or long-form recorded video to include user-generated imagery and posts, advocacy by employees, and live streaming video.

With content playing a central role in marketing, Islam said his company’s platform “has taken off.” NewsCred reports that its revenue grew threefold last year, and its customer base doubled. Fortune 2000 companies represent 40 percent of its customers, and include such well-known brands as Barclays, Cap Gemini, Cisco, Fidelity, Dell, Pepsi, USAA, Visa, and NASDAQ.

But this newly expanded role for the company does not completely replace the rest of a marketing stack, he acknowledged. For instance, he said that you can use NewsCred to create an email list and manage it, but you might still employ Salesforce’s ExactTarget marketing platform for deliverability.

NewsCred’s evolution is part of a trend of marrying content marketing with other capabilities. New York City-based PulsePoint, for example, recently added content marketing to its ad targeting automation, as DNN did with its content management and Acrolinx with its language optimization.

Among direct competitors, Islam sees Percolate as being more focused on social, while Skyword and Contently are more oriented toward their writer marketplaces. At the high end of marketing platforms, there are the big players like Adobe, Salesforce, and Oracle, but he said they’ve added much of their functionality through acquisitions, while NewsCred has “built it organically.”

And, he pointed out, his company looks at marketing “from the content angle.”

The new funding, which brings the total raised to $88.8 million, will be used to double the company’s sales team and to support software development of the platform.

FTV Capital led this Series D round, with participation from existing investors FirstMark Capital, InterWest Partners, and Mayfield Fund.

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Amazon chooses India for its Asia debut of Kindle Unlimited


September is turning out to be a significant month for Amazon on the international expansion front.

The e-commerce giant announced the availability of its Kindle Unlimited subscription service in India Wednesday, just days after it also revealed plans to enter Japan with its video streaming service. (Its main rival Netflix officially launches in Japan today.)

This marks the service’s debut launch in Asia, and is an unsurprising choice considering India’s forecast to become to world’s second-largest smartphone market by 2017, behind China.

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Amazon’s director of Kindle content, Sanjeev Jha, said the India launch was part of the company’s push to make “reading more accessible than ever.”

“For less than the average price of one hardcover bestseller, we’ve made the best digital library in the world available to every corner of India,” he said.

The service will cost about $3 per month, and include access to over one million titles — though Amazon is offering half-price subscriptions through September.

Along with Kindle devices, users can also take advantage of the service through the Kindle app on iOS and Android (hence the importance of India’s strong smartphone growth forecasts). Books included as part of the deal are clearly labeled with a Kindle Unlimited logo.

As for India more broadly, Amazon has already made very clear its intentions there: it announced a $2 billion investment into its India operations at the end of July, in a bid to better compete with local rivals Flipkart and Snapdeal.

On Tuesday, Amazon and a host of other tech giants announced that they were banding together to create new open media formats. And on the same day it finally launched a standalone video-streaming app for Android, as well as making available Prime movies and TV shows for offline playback.

Now the question becomes: which country in Asia will Kindle Unlimited roll out to next? Place your bets.

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